Original research| Volume 97, ISSUE 11, P1853-1862.e2, November 2016

Systematic Reviews and Clinical Trials in Rehabilitation: Comprehensive Analyses of Publication Trends

  • Tiago S. Jesus
    Corresponding author Tiago S. Jesus, PhD, Portuguese Ministry of Education, Aggregation of Schools of Escariz, 4540-320 Escariz, Portugal.
    Portuguese Ministry of Education, Aggregation of Schools of Escariz, Escariz, Portugal
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      To analyze publication trends of clinical trials (CTs) and systematic reviews (SRs) in rehabilitation.


      PubMed searches were performed with appropriate combinations of Medical Subject Headings. All entries until December 2013, and their yearly distributions since 1981 (when the first rehabilitation SR was identified), were retrieved. After the initial data visualization, data analyses were narrowed to specific periods. Linear regression techniques analyzed the growth of publications and their relative percentages over time.


      Not applicable.


      Not applicable.


      Not applicable.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Not applicable.


      Although not observed for SRs, CTs have grown at a much higher rate in rehabilitation than in the broader health/medical field—more than twice the difference for both periods analyzed (1989–2001, 2001–2013). Rehabilitation journals published about 20% or less of the rehabilitation SRs and CTs, and no significant increases were observed over time (P>.05; 2001–2013). Neurologic conditions, particularly cerebrovascular, were the most addressed by rehabilitation SRs and CTs, while differences between neurologic and other groups of conditions typically widened over time (eg, more than doubled between neurologic and musculoskeletal conditions in 15y).


      While publications of CTs are increasing at a much higher rate within rehabilitation than within broader health care, further research is warranted to explain why this trend is not being followed by SRs, particularly those with meta-analysis. Similarly, research might determine whether the (growing) differences in the publications of rehabilitation SRs and CTs across groups of conditions are justified by clinical or population need.


      List of abbreviations:

      CT (clinical trial), MeSH (Medical Subject Headings), RCT (randomized controlled trial), SR (systematic review), SR&MA (systematic review and meta-analysis)
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